Steven Tari After his Arrest

Black Jesus, battered and bruised after his capture by villagers. Picture: The National, PNG

A few years ago I found myself in the jungles of Papua New Guinea listening to an extraordinary story – claims that a mythical tribal ‘messiah’ calling himself Black Jesus was drinking the blood and eating the flesh of his ‘flower girls’.

They were teenagers who were among thousands of his ‘disciples’ who followed him through the jungles as he preached his own form of religion – denying the teachings of the Bible – to the people of remote villages.
This week Black Jesus, 38, was found guilty under his real name, Steven Tari, of raping four of his flower girls, but, despite claims from their relatives that he had also sacrificed young women, he escaped being charged with murder.
Tari’s Christian-influenced cargo cult was first revealed to the world by me in the Daily Mail in 2007 when villagers and police told of the bodies of three ‘flower girls’ being buried in remote parts of the country.
One woman told police that she was present when Tari killed her young daughter by slitting her throat after which he drank her blood.
Interviewed in Madang’s Boen Prison a year later after his dramatic capture, Tari defended his practice in the black arts and of sleeping with young girls who joined his cult, admitting that ‘I got plenty – 430 girls’.
But he added: ‘What I did is under and in line with my religion. It was religious and was not wrong.’
He will be sentenced later this month and police said they expected him to receive a long term in jail.
Black Jesus had gathered more than six thousand disciples as he travelled through villages in jungle-clad mountains, promising people they would receive gifts from heaven if they followed him.
He dressed in long white robes, like Christ, and stood on boulders declaring that he was the modern Jesus and evil would stay away from those who left their homes to follow him through the jungles.
But when word spread that he had sacrificed three young women, drinking their blood and eating part of their flesh as part of his bizarre ceremonies, the devotion of his followers began to turn to fear.
Added to concerns were claims by the relatives of a mother who was said to have fallen under his spell and drank her own daughter’s blood.
My own inquiries in the remote villages of Papua New Guinea heard claims from thee family of 13-year-old Rita Hemen that she had been stripped naked, tied to a crude bed and raped by Tari before having her throat cut.
Her relatives said her blood had been drained into a coconut shell and drunk by Tari and his evil henchmen – and in a final horrific act they had eaten strips of her flesh.
Tari’s wickedness came to an end when he reached the village of Matepi, where he was overpowered while sleeping in a hut.
A church pastor, Paul Makura, said it had been difficult for police to catch Tari as he never stayed long in one place.
‘When he came here we heard that he had killed young women so we put a plan into action. We encouraged him to stay on and when he went to a hut to rest a group of eight villagers broke in, pounced on him and tied him up.’
Heavily armed police who made their way to Matepi found Tari tied to a tree. There was no sign of his bow-and-arrow-carrying bodyguards who, on a previous occasion, had engaged in a fight to the death with police.
Tari was still in possession of what he called his ‘magic rod’ – a knife – and a battered Bible, many of the teachings of which he had denied in his own sermons.
A spokesman for the Lutheran church, which is strongly represented in Papua New Guinea, said: ‘We hope that the passage of time will erase memories of what this evil man has done.’
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